RT.com 2 Mar, 2020 18:10
The US State Department is limiting the number of employees China’s four largest state-backed media outlets may hire in the US and the amount of time those journalists can stay, intensifying its crackdown on the Chinese press.
The number of journalists legally permitted to work in the US offices of Beijing’s top four media organizations will be cut, while those journalists will see the amount of time they can stay in the US reduced, State Department officials told reporters on Monday. The move affects Xinhua News Agency, China Global Television Network, China Radio International, and China Daily Distribution Corp.
“For years, the [Chinese] government has imposed increasingly harsh surveillance, harassment and intimidation against American and other foreign journalists in China,” a senior official was quoted as saying by Reuters. The announcement came after China’s decision to expel three Wall Street Journal employees last month over an op-ed calling coronavirus-stricken China the “real sick man of Asia.” However, the US had previously reclassified the same four media outlets (plus People’s Daily Distribution Corp.) as “diplomatic missions,” placing them under tighter government scrutiny.
Now some of the same reporters that Washington called “propaganda agents for Beijing” may find themselves unceremoniously hustled out of the country. As of March 13, the affected outlets will only be permitted 100 journalists, down from 160.
Officials denied the decision was “linked to any one particular incident,” though they referred to the expulsion of the WSJ journalists as a “fairly egregious” example of the poor treatment allegedly inflicted on American journalists working in China.
The Foreign Correspondents Club of China accused Beijing in a report on Monday of having “weaponized” visas in an effort to put pressure on foreign journalists, who require special visas to work there. In the US, Chinese journalists’ visas are contingent on their ability to work, so while the State Department insisted it wouldn’t be “sending anyone back,” it acknowledged journalists who couldn’t fulfill that condition of their visas would have to leave.
The State Department did not rule out further action, warning that “if in fact they decide to take this in a further negative direction…all options would be on the table.” China’s Foreign Ministry warned last week that Beijing would “certainly respond further” if the US “takes further harassment and restriction measures” after rumors circulated that Washington was planning to expel all Chinese journalists.
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